Thursday, 17 July 2008

A whirlwind tour of Portugal, southern and northern Spain, by boat and tent…

Brian, Chris and skipper, Peter on board Tonia

Just a quick blog today – after a couple of months – a lot has happened in recent weeks and months, but I’ve either been too busy living it, or, more recently, we’ve been without internet access so have been unable to post anything. We are currently on our travels away from Valencia.

Yacht Tonia in Ayamonte border town on the Spanish side near Portugal (photo by Jo!

We departed a week ago last Sunday, 6 July, heading for the southern Spanish / Portuguese border town at Ayamonte (Spain) for a five-day sailing course for Liz and myself. This we successfully completed having sailed around 100 miles along the Portuguese coast to Tavira and then back up the Guadiana River to Foz. I now have my Day Skipper certificate and Liz has her Competent Crew one, so beware RNLI!

Liz, Chris and Jo at the beach in Guincho near Lisbon, Portugal

Since last weekend, we have started our Iberian camping tour which will be around three weeks or so. We started by driving back over the newish suspension bridge over the Guadiana River bridge at Ayamonte (we’d been sailing back and forth under it the previous week) and into Portugal’s Algarve coast. We headed on to a small town called Alvor, a few miles from the larger town of Lagoa, over yet another impressive suspension bridge at Portimao. Our first couple of nights were spent at Dourada campsite in Alvor (not to be recommended – quite expensive and every service after paying for the campsite was charged as an extra – electricity, hot water, swimming pool etc. All rather petty and annoying – why not simply charge an all-inclusive price? Anyway, I could go on…

Sunset over the horizon at Guincho - nearly the most western point of Europe!

We quickly tired of the Algarve, though we had a great day at the Splash and Slide water park in Lagoa. The thought of fish and chips and too many Brits forced our hand and we moved north to the Lisbon area on Monday. A great journey up the ‘B road’ equivalents, avoiding the motorway. I never realised how much wheat was grown in Portugal, but it is also surprising how behind the times the methods of agriculture still appear to be. The wheat fields seem to be heavily populated with a combination of cork and olive trees, which means that the more common combine harvesters would have difficulty navigating their way around a crazy maze of wheat, hence smaller machinery must be used. The entire drive was very beautiful and most of the land as far as the eye could see remains either entirely undeveloped or used for agriculture – no major towns and even the small villages seem quite basic in terms of buildings and services. The final drive over the impressive bridge Ponte 25 Abril was stunning. This bridge, similar to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, is a couple of miles long in total. Its sister bridge a few miles up river claims to be 17 kilometres (about 11 miles) long. The river Tejo is obviously wide and very picturesque from both sides. Next to the Ponte 25 Abril is a statue of Christ which, similar to Rio de Janeiro, dominates the skyline on the banks opposite Lisbon. We’ve spent the past three nights at the Orbitur campsite at Guincho, just up the coast from Cascais (pronounced Cushcaish!) which is a great site by comparison with the one in Alvor. Sadly the free wifi seems not to be working – half the staff weren’t aware it even existed and the other half claim it is working!). We’ve had a day exploring the beautiful towns of Cascais and Estoril and spent all of yesterday in Lisbon – more to follow if and when I get the chance. Today we’re planning to visit the town of Sintra and will try to grab a few minutes of broadband somewhere – someone here assures us that McDonald’s has free wifi locally. Now, can we face up to a visit for a gluten-free coffee and fries?!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Sponsorship for Cubs

Chris on about length number 75 and still going strong!

I've completed my sponsored swim of 100 lengths of my pool for Cottenham Cubs. I raised £106 and 5p all thanks to you!! The reason we are trying to raise so much money is so that we can buy things to camp in comfort.